2010 Ole Miss Preview - Defense
Ole Miss DE Kentrell Lockett
Ole Miss DE Kentrell Lockett
Posted May 17, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Ole Miss Rebel Defense

Ole Miss Rebels

Preview 2010 - Defense

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- 2010 Ole Miss Defense | 2010 Ole Miss Depth Chart
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What You Need To Know: Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix might have to replace five starters including three key defensive backs, but the nation's 21st ranked defense (and 15th in scoring D) isn't likely to suffer a huge drop-off. The defensive front will be tremendous with NT Jerrell Powe and DE Kentrell Lockett good enough to be playing on Sundays, while JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey will easy the loss of Marcus Tillman on the end. There isn't star power in the linebacking corps, but it'll be a rock-solid group with Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker two unsung seniors who'll come up with big years working behind the great line. Even with all the losses, the secondary will be fine as long as corners Jeremy McGee and Marcus Temple can handle having bigger roles, and if JUCO transfer Damien Jackson is half the free safety Kendrick Lewis was. As always, this will be an ultra-aggressive, very fast group that should make more big plays than it allows.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Johnny Brown, 81
Sacks: Kentrell Lockett, 5
Interceptions: Fon Ingram, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Kentrell Lockett
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior CB Marcus Temple
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Joel Kight
Best pro prospect: Senior NT Jerrell Powe
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lockett, 2) Powe, 3) SS Johnny Brown
Strength of the defense: Sacks, Quickness
Weakness of the defense: Corner, Experienced Back Seven Depth

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Back as the team's top pass rusher is senior Kentrell Lockett , a strong veteran who's about to put up huge numbers. One of the team's top sackers last year, the 6-5, 254-pounder made 39 tackles, five sacks, and ten tackles for loss along with a team-leading 13 quarterback hurries. A big speed rusher with enough athleticism to have been recruited for the Ole Miss basketball team, he was expected to be a star right away, and now he's playing up to his potential. While he hasn't received the all-star recognition of other Rebel linemen, that will come this year if he's able to be a consistent threat into the backfield again.

The one lost starter on the line is Marcus Tillman, who made 5.5 sacks on the end. Replacing him will be Wayne Dorsey, Scout.com's No. 1 JUCO transfer. The 6-6, 255-pounder was a terror into the backfield all offseason and looks like yet another tall, athletic end who can crank out game-changing big plays at any time. With a great motor and a burst off the ball, he'll shine on the other side of Kentrell Lockett.

Returning as the team's anchor is 6-2, 330-pound senior Jerrell Powe, a big, strong talent who'll be in the NFL next year at this time. The crown jewel of the 2005 Rebel recruiting class, it took a few years to finally get academically eligible, and now the Second Team All-SEC performer is living up to his immense potential. While he came up with 34 tackles as a tough run stuffer, he also showed the quickness to be a dangerous interior pass rusher with three sacks and 12 tackles for loss. When his motor is running, he's among the nation's best tackles.

While senior Lawon Scott benefits from being next to Jerrell Powe, he's good on his own, too. The 6-1, 310-pound senior had to take over for NFL first round draft pick, Peria Jerry, and he did a good job making 24 tackles. While he shed some weight over the last year, he's still not a pocket collapser; he's a brick wall who holds up against the run and allows Powe to focus more on getting into the backfield. Strong enough to play on the nose, he'll move around where needed.

Projected Top Reserves: Combining with Lawon Scott on the inside is Ted Laurent, a 6-1, 303-pound senior who can play either on the nose or as a one-gap pass rusher. He got a little bit of starting duty and was a key reserve throughout the year making 12 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss, and now the very strong, very physical anchor should once again be terrific in the rotation against the run.

6-5, 245-pound sophomore Gerald Rivers saw a little bit of time in his first year making four tackles with a tackle for loss in mop-up duty. Always working and always moving, he'll get into the backfield on want-to in a rotation with Kentrell Lockett, and he should make a name for himself as a pass rushing specialist. While he doesn't explode off the ball and he needs lots of technique work, he's athletic enough to find his way into five sacks with a bigger role. Not just a speed rusher, he should also be solid against the run.

After first signing on last year, it took a year for freshman Cameron Whigham to be ready to join the team, and now the sky's the limit for the 6-2, 247-pounder. Built like a linebacker, he has the speed and the burst to be terrific at getting to the quarterback, but he has to prove he can hold up against the more physical blockers and he has to be able to get free when engaged.

Watch Out For … Dorsey. It's assuming a lot to think he can step in and immediately be another Marcus Tillman or Greg Hardy (at least talent-wise), but he has that type of upside and skill. With everyone paying attention to Lockett and Powe, the opportunities will be there.
Strength: Getting into the backfield. Even though no one came up with more than 5.5 sacks or12 tackles for loss, Ole Miss still finished 11th in the nation (and first in the SEC) in tackles for loss, and 14th in sacks. Three starters are back and Dorsey is a ready-made end ready to go; the production will continue.
Weakness: The spread. With a line this good, there's no reason anyone should be able to run on a regular basis. Few will get more than 100 yards on this group, but it had problems against Joe Webb and UAB's spread, struggled against Auburn, and got gouged by Mississippi State for 317 yards.
Outlook: As long as Laurent is a steady reserve in the tackle rotation and if the front four can hold up, the line will be among the best in America. Few will do more to get to the quarterback, and few will be stronger against the weaker running teams. There are at least two NFL players up front, and there's possibly three if Dorsey plays as expected to go along with Powe and Lockett.
Unit Rating: 9.5


Projected Starters: Two starters are gone from the linebacking corps, but the one loss, weakside star Patrick Trahan, is a big one. Stepping in to take over will be sophomore Joel Kight, an undersized Tasmanian devil of a defender who flies all over the field and is strong enough to work in the middle if needed. At 5-8 and 220 pounds he doesn't have the raw measurables, but he's tough as nails, has a high-octane motor, and he hits like a ton of bricks.

Back in his spot in the middle is 6-1, 235-pound senior Jonathan Cornell, a burgeoning star and an unsung rock against the run. The team's third leading tackler, he made 79 stops after coming up with 45 in a decent sophomore season. While he's not all that big, he's a very smart, very quick leader who finds ways to get to the ball and does a nice job of cleaning up everything the great line doesn't get to. Past a shoulder injury that limited him early on, he has to continue to prove he can hold up.

On the verge of stardom is 6-1, 225-pound senior Allen Walker after making 51 tackles with a sack and five tackles for loss. An elite defensive back prospect when he came to the program, he's proving to be more than a beefed up safety on the strongside. While he has the ability to do more to get into the backfield, he's terrific and chasing down the runner and getting in on stops. Fast enough to be better against the pass, he'll find ways to make big plays with two years of experience to go along with his raw skills.

Projected Top Reserves: The linebacking corps needed a few key backups to step up and shine last year, and D.T. Shackelford came through. An SEC All-Freshman performer, the 6-1, 230-pounder made 20 tackles and took an interception 58 yards for a score against Southeaster Louisiana. Wanted by everyone in the SEC, he was a terrific recruit who was built to play in ghe middle. While he has great pass rushing potential, his worth will be as a run stopper.

Built like a safety when he came to Ole Miss, the 6-2, 237-pound Mike Marry hit the weights and beefed up 25 pounds over the last year. The freshman has limitless range, moves well for his size, and could be used as an occasional pass rusher from the strongside in a rotation with Allen Walker. Smart, he doesn't take many wasted steps and should always be in the right spot.

6-4, 205-pound redshirt freshman Alex Williams was a high school defensive end who's built more like a college H-Back or a receiving tight end. Very long and very quick, he'll be like another safety on the weakside behind Joel Kight, and he's fast enough to be used in a variety of ways both against the pass and as a threat into the backfield. He won't miss any tackles and he has the range to chase down ball-carriers without a problem.

Watch Out For … Kight. No, he won't be Trahan, but the sophomore should be a whale of a pass rusher and a disruptive force all over the field. He'll be at his best in space, but he should be a stat-sheet filler even when he has to shed blocks.
Strength: Quickness. This is a smallish, undersized group, but it's not a bunch of beefed up defensive backs; these are linebackers that just happen to not be that big. Versatile, all the players can be used in a variety of ways and they can all get into the backfield.
Weakness: Proven reserves. Williams and Marry should be special with a little bit of time, but they still need to prove it. They'll get time with the rest of the linebacking corps strong enough to ease the newcomers in, but there will be problems if injuries strike early on.
Outlook: There isn't a Patrick Willis-like star in the bunch, but there are several very good, very quick defenders who get the benefit of playing behind a special defensive front. Everyone can tackle and everyone can move, and now this is a veteran corps that should keep the mistakes to a minimum and should be more disruptive. This is a nice group that won't get a lot of press because of the spotlight on the line, but it'll be good.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: The secondary has to replace three key players, with the biggest lost of the lot at free safety where Kendrick Lewis led the team with 84 tackles along with two interceptions. Fortunately, JUCO transfer Damien Jackson appears to be the real deal. The 6-2, 195-pound junior was a star pickup from Mississippi Gulf Coast CC with good size and great range, and he looked the part this offseason with the talent to quickly become one of the defense's top players. He might not be Lewis, but he's not going to be that far off.

The lone returning starter to the secondary is veteran Johnny Brown , a 6-0, 212-pound senior who finished second on the team with 81 tackles with an interception and five broken up passes. It took a few years for him to play up to his talent and ability, but he has found a role as a big-hitting strong safety and he should be among the team's leading tacklers again. Now he has to do a bit more against the pass.

Trying to replace Cassius Vaughn at right corner will be senior Jeremy McGee, a former UCLA running back who got a starts against SE Louisiana and UAB while finishing the year with 19 tackles and a pick. The 5-10, 180-pounder was a star high school sprinter and has the elite wheels to stay with any receiver in the SEC, but he has to be consistent and he has to make teams pay for throwing his way.

Taking over for Marshay Green at left corner will be 5-10, 188-pound junior Marcus Temple, a veteran nickel and dime defender who made 16 tackles with a pick in his limited time. He got the start against Arkansas and Northern Arizona, but he didn't make enough play when the ball way in the air over the last two years. He's a decent tackler for his size and isn't going to have a problem with the more physical targets, but he has to be great early to hold down the starting job.

Projected Top Reserves: Fighting hard for the starting left corner job is Charles Sawyer , one of the stars of the offseason and too good to keep off the field. The 5-10, 172-pound redshirt freshman might not be an elite talent, but he's hiccup quick and cuts on a dime. He could use some work in the weight room to be more physical, but the athleticism is there and the upside is limitless. If he doesn't grab the corner spot, he'll be a key nickel and dime defender.

Senior Fon Ingram has been a great reserve safety over the course of his solid career making 49 tackles with two picks last year as he got an expanded role. Now the tremendously quick 6-0, 200-pounder will work in a rotation at free safety and will be used in a variety of ways to get his experience and playmaking ability on the field. He doesn't miss a stop.

6-1, 160-pound Frank Crawford is a bit too lanky and he needs to hit the weights to put more beef on his frame, but he's a ball hawker who should be solid in the strong safety rotation. The redshirt freshman is a strong tackler for his size and does a great job of tracking down the ball; his more natural position could end up being at free safety.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Campbell was a strong pickup for the program last year with good height, a nose for the ball, and pure cover-corner skills. He's not going to tackle anyone and he has to work on his technique, but the 6-0, 175-pounder is good enough to be groomed this year to take over one of the corner jobs next season.

Watch Out For … Sawyer. While he didn't grab one of the open corner jobs, he showed this offseason that he deserves a much longer look this fall. He picked off just about everything thrown his way and showed off the upside to be a major playmaker with a little more work.
Strength: Safety. Losing Lewis isn't a plus in any way, but the Rebels are fine in the middle with Brown as steady as they come and Jackson a primetime JUCO transfer who's ready to roll. Ingram is a seasoned veteran and Crawford will be a good one in time.
Weakness: Proven corner. McGee and Temple have been around long enough to know what they're doing, and Sawyer is a high-riser, but Green, after he figured out what he was doing, and Vaughn were two nice bookends who came up with strong senior seasons.
Outlook: Helped by a major-league pass rush, the secondary came up with a strong year picking off 13 passes and only allowing 12 scores. However, the teams on the schedule that could throw a little bit found ways to crank out some decent production. Three starters might be gone, but there's good depth (even if it's not developed) and plenty of promise with players like Jackson and Temple about to shine. This will be a good secondary, but not a great one.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Sophomore Bryson Rose has to replace Joshua Shene, a four-year starter who hit 15-of-20 field goals in a slightly disappointing senior season. Rose has a big leg with 50+ range, but he has to prove he can be consistent from inside the 40. He didn't take the job by the horns this offseason, leaving the door open for junior David Hankins , a 6-3, 222-pounder bomber who'll be great on kickoffs if needed.

Sophomore Tyler Campbell took over the punting job last year and came up with a whale of a year finishing second in the SEC and 12th in the nation averaging 44 yards per kick forcing 19 fair catches with 13 put inside the 20. He gets good blast on the ball, highlighted by a 71-yarder against Alabama (with a good roll), and he should be in the hunt for all-star honors.

Receiver Jesse Grandy handled the kickoff returns last year averaging 25.7 yards per try with two touchdowns, and now he'll try to take over for Marshay Green on punt returns. Green averaged 10.2 yards per try, but Grandy is more explosive.

Watch Out For … a big-time battle for the kicking job. Rose will probably end up with the job, and Andrew Ritter will be the kickoff specialist for now, but Hankins has been just good enough to make the job open for debate.
Strength: Campbell. The sophomore is just scratching the surface on his talent, and he should be a godsend at times bailing out the offense when it sputters.
Weakness: Coverage teams. Not a problem two years ago, the coverage units were lousy last year averaging 22.8 yards per kickoff return and allowing a mediocre 8.4 yards per punt return. The coverage problems weren't a killer, but they didn't help.
Outlook: The special teams should be interesting. The kicking job will be a fight and there's no guarantee of consistency, while the punting game and the returns, thanks to Grandy, should be excellent. Ole Miss only played in one game last year (LSU) that was decided by fewer than six points, but the special teams might make more of a difference this year.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2010 Ole Miss Preview | 2010 Ole Miss Offense
- 2010 Ole Miss Defense | 2010 Ole Miss Depth Chart
- Ole Miss Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006